IT project to check travellers’ identities against police databases does not meet EU rules. Another British bungle

The future of Labour’s £1.2bn ‘electronic borders’ scheme is in doubt after the Government had to make a series of concessions to ensure it met EU rules. Originally the UK e-borders rules required airlines, ferries and rail companies to check the details held on all passengers’ passports; including name and address, departure and arrival points. This was so the British authorities could check these details against databases and watch lists held by police and security forces.

However, this breached EU rules governing free movement of people within member states. A report from the Commons Home Affairs select committee warned that the way the UK was implementing its e-borders project would make it illegal under EU law. It called for the scheme to be put on hold when it pointed out that “an EU Member State cannot impose any requirement other than simple production of a valid identity document on an EU citizen other than in exceptional circumstances.”

Chairman Keith Vaz said: ”A very disappointing oversight is that we are sure that what the programme requires will be illegal under the EU Treaty. “It is shocking that money has already been spent on a programme which could never be implemented. We cannot have another massive IT project which flounders or is even abandoned at huge cost to the taxpayer, it is simply unacceptable.”

Since then the Government has held negotiations with the European Commission, and forced to offer a series of concessions. The Home Office has agreed that the collection of passenger information will now be on a voluntary basis. [Which makes it useless. Anybody with something to hide will not volunteer]

Phil Woolas, UK Border and Immigration minister argued that the programme wouldn’t be scrapped and was fully compliant with EU law which he claimed was confirmed by the EU Commission. [Woolly Phil again]